[April 25, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Semi-Slav Defense – Neo-Meran, Wade Variation (Larsen Variation)

[Line 278 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 c6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Bd3 dxc4 7. Bxc4 b5 8. Bd3 Bb7 without 9. O-O]

The initial position of Line 278 is called the Wade Variation (also known as the Larsen Variation), and is currently the most popular treatment of the Neo-Meran. The main continuation for White (9. O-O) is covered in our Line 279, and the other two options are examined in this opening line: 9. a3 and 9. e4.

By playing 9. a3 White plans to proceed with e3-e4, where he can meet b5-b4 with axb4. Black usually chooses 9… Bd6, and is ready to counter 10. e4 with 10… e5. White can slowly develop pieces by playing 10. O-O O-O 11. Bd2 a5, with a roughly equal position. Black also has other means to equalize, for example 9… a6 10. b4 a5 11. Rb1 Nd5 12. Nxd5 exd5, and he should be fine.

Against 9. e4 Black typically immediately reacts in the center by playing 9… b4 10. Na4 c5 11. e5 Nd5, again with equal chances.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black is a pawn up, but it is rather inconsequential since White exerts strong pressure along the e-file. That being said, how can White gain a substantial advantage in the diagrammed position?

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[April 24, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
Nimzo-Indian Defense, Rubinstein Variation – Normal Variation with 5. Bd3

[Line 190 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 O-O 5. Bd3]

From the initial position of our Line 190 5… d5 is considered to be the main move, where 6. Nf3 is covered in our Lines 191-194.

If White opts for 6. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 the principal choice for Black is 6… dxc4 7. Bxc4 c5, and after 8. Nf3 he is able to equalize with 8… Qc7, but also with 8… b6 and 8… Qa5. White sometimes develops the Knight to the other square: 8. Ne2. Black is again fine, for example 8… Qc7 9. Ba2 b6 10. O-O Ba6.

Move 5… c5 is a reasonable alternative to the main 5… d5. If White now plays 6. Nf3, Black gets even chances with 6… b6 7. O-O Bxc3 8. bxc3 Bb7. Also, after 6. a3 Bxc3+ 7. bxc3 Nc6 8. Ne2 Black gets sufficient counterplay with 8… b6, planning Ba6 and Na5, and pressing the weak c4-pawn.

[Diagram: Black to Move] L. Van Wely – P. Acs, Hoogoveen 2002. Black Knight on h2 is very active and his Bishops and Queen are also ready to join the attack on the poorly protected white King. How should Black continue to gain an almost decisive advantage?

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[April 23, 2017] Updated Opening Article by Boris Avrukh:
March 2015 Revisited: Sicilian Defense, Taimanov-Bastrikov Variation with 7… Bd6

In one of our previous installments of this article V. Kramnik – F. Caruana, Dortmund 2016 was this line’s key game, where Black had problems reaching the full equality. It didn’t take long and Caruana got the opportunity to try the same line as White: his choice proved successful and he scored an important win against Movsesian. However, more developments followed, and our new best mutual play now follows A. Motylev – M. Bosiočić, Moscow 2017. This is a very topical and fashionable line, and we believe there is still plenty of room for improvement for both sides.

[Diagram: White to Move] The diagrammed position comes from an analysis from the above mentioned game from the Moscow Open. Can you find the way to untangle White’s pieces that ends in a perpetual check?

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[April 21, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Borki Predojević:
Queen’s Indian Defense, Kasparov Variation with 4… Bb4 5. Bg5

[Line 205 : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. Nc3 Bb4 5. Bg5]

Though Black can opt for 5… h6 or even 5… Bxc3+, the most common choice is definitely 5… Bb7. Now, there are three recommendable options for White: 6. e3, 6. Nd2 and 6. Qc2.

In case of 6. e3, Black usually replies with 6… h6 7. Bh4 g5 8. Bg3 Ne4. Black’s kingside gets a bit weakened, but White remains with doubled c-pawns when Black plays Bxc3. For example, 9. Qc2 Bxc3+ 10. bxc3 d6 11. Bd3 f5, with mutual play.

Also, after 6. Nd2 h6 7. Bh4 Black gets a comfortable position in a couple of ways. One of the options is 7… Be7 8. e4 O-O 9. Bg3 d5, and this position is roughly balanced.

Black may play a similar plan even after 6. Qc2. For example 6… h6 7. Bh4 g5 8. Bg3 Ne4 9. Nd2 Bxc3 10. bxc3 Nxg3 11. hxg3 Qe7, often followed by d7-d6, Nd7 and O-O-O.

[Diagram: White to Move] If Black manages to castle long, he would get a satisfactory position. How should White continue to seize the initiative?

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[April 20, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Bojan Vučković:
French Defense, Normal Variation – Rubinstein Variation (incl. Fort Knox Variation)

[Line 331 : 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 without 3… Bb4, 3… Nf6]

The two most common moves are dealt with in other opening lines: 3… Bb4 in Lines 343-364, and 3… Nf6 in Lines 336-342.

Rubinstein Variation (3… dxe4) is another popular option, where after 4. Nxe4 the main move 4… Nd7 is covered in depth in Lines 332-335. The Fort Knox Variation (4… Bd7) is suitable for begginers and club level players. Black’s plan is Bc6 and, at a right moment, capturing one of the white Knights, followed by c7-c6. White stays with a bishop pair and small space advantage, but Black has a solid position without weaknesses.

Various sidelines can also be found in this line, including 3… Nc6 and 3… Be7. In these sidelines, White generally gets more promising positions without difficulties.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black is ready to recapture the piece with fxe6. How can White thwart his opponent’s plan, and claim a big edge?

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[April 19, 2017] Updated Opening Line by Trajko Nedev:
Sicilian Defense, Richter-Rauzer Variation – Main Line with 7… a6 8. O-O-O Bd7

[Line 476 : 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Bg5 e6 7. Qd2 a6 8. O-O-O Bd7]

From the initial position of this opening line there are two substantially different continuations for White – 9. f4 and 9. f3.

The first of the two is more direct, where after 9. f4 b5 10. Bxf6 gxf6 11. Kb1 Qb6 12. Nxc6 Bxc6 occurs the critical position. Here, White usually opts for either 13. f5 or 13. Qe1, while 13. Bd3 is also quite possible. The general evaluation is that these positions are easier to play with White, though Black is able to get sufficient counterplay with a few accuracies.

The other option 9. f3 is a more strategical approach, and in this line Black also needs to be careful not to get into inferior positions. The two most popular replies after 9… Be7 are prophylactic 10. Kb1, and the Bishop retreat 10. Be3, followed by g2-g4 and later g4-g5.

[Diagram: White to Move] Black Bishop on h6 is active and it seems like Black has a sufficient compensation for the pawn. Yet, there is a way for White to gain an advantage with an unexpected blow! Can you find it?

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